The Chronicle of Higher Education. Conducted by Evan R. Goldstein in June 2011, the interview focuses largely on Gioia's reading practices. He reads copious amounts. The volume of his daily reading is all the more amazing in that he still teaches. Although I couldn't possibly come close to equaling the amount of reading he does, I was reminded again that writers read, a practice sometimes ignored by young writers.
But I was surprised by Gioia's response when asked how his reading of professional journals had changed in the past 10 years. He replied:
I used to follow a great many journals in my field, which is modern and contemporary poetry. Today I read far fewer. Most publications now seem more or less interchangeable—the poetry mostly forgettable and the critical prose generic. Perhaps I’m getting old and tired, but I’ve noticed that most of my peers also seem to follow these publications with less interest. Perhaps we are in a poetry slump.
I now read about half a dozen journals regularly, plus the online Contemporary Poetry Review. I also check Poetry Daily, which provides links to poetry reviews from across the U.S. as well as the U.K., Ireland, Canada, and Australia. I also rely on friends who constantly send me links, off-prints, and copies of journals.
Journals change, sure, and so do readers. But with so many journals to choose from, I find such a blanket dismissal surprising. I wonder which half dozen journals Gioia does read regularly. I wonder, too, if he is in a poetry slump or if poetry is in a slump.
Having read that response, I was not then surprised to read Gioia's response when asked if he reads blogs: "I don’t read any blogs regularly, although half the people I know seem to be blogging.
I read them only when friends send me links in their emails."
Given how much print material he reads each day, it's easy to understand why Gioia wouldn't have time for blogs, but that's a lot to miss.
When asked about Twitter, Gioia replied: "I never use Twitter. In fact, I am deeply suspicious of the massive communications overload that the media obsesses over and glorifies. So much of this activity is just covert advertising for products and celebrities. The objective is to capture and commercialize every moment of people’s time. What we really need is more quiet and less phony connectivity."
Certainly there's a good deal of truth in this. And yes, we need quiet time for reflection and solitude for writing. But there's also the practical reality that if we want our work to be read these days, we need to make some use of social media. Yes or No? Is time spent on social media wasted time or is it part of the work we need to do to stay in touch with other poets and to assist our publishers who simply do not have large budgets for lots of advertising? Honestly, many of my Facebook friends are very well-known poets who I'm happy to hang out with, albeit if only virtually.
One reader of this interview made this comment: "Gioia's dismissal of social networking is the voice of someone who mocks what he does not understand. A shame for a scholar to let his own ignorance be his certitude."